YIDFF 2005 New Docs Japan
Ride Forward on Your Bicycle
An Interview with Sugimoto Nobuaki (Director)

Li and Sugimoto

Q: The shots that follow Pumyong on his bicycle are extremely cinematic.

SN: The cameraman shot them while steering with one hand. We couldn’t have filmed it without that cameraman. We thought up a lot of different things, like using a motorcycle, contraptions, maneuvering to get a head start. But we thought those weren’t the right approach, also there was the budget, so we went to a used bicycle shop and bought one bicycle each for me, the cameraman and the video engineer, and practiced for a day. And the fortuitous thing was that we could shoot from about the same vantage point by following from behind. The people you pass, the sounds of stores closing their shutters, the woman grilling meat along the side of the street. We were only able to show ambiance like that by following him on bicycle too.

Q: The people in Ikuno seem really kind.

SN: Of course, they weren’t always kind either. But, the situation is quite different from Tokyo, for example. Building relationships means stepping into new relationships beyond neighborhood associations, the PTA and work, and dealing with that also poses a threat to everything that has been built up to date. You have to be on guard. Even if relationships get built, they are weak, or it’s like, don’t make me get connected with you. Ikuno is different from other places in that sense. I don’t fully understand why. One thing is that there are a lot of zainichi Koreans, and they know it’s boring to be overly defensive. Or they know you can’t live that way.

There are a lot of things that might not be a big deal, like giving someone your seat on the train or picking up garbage you dropped on the street. These things are done as personal actions, not out of habit. There was a sense that people were really making a choice. The woman at the takoyaki (grilled octopus dumplings) stand, the guy at the bicycle shop, and Li. Though it has nothing to do with having money. It seemed to me like honor or pride in making choices based on your own attitudes. Given the development of mass media, I think there are lots of things that are thrust upon you before you’re even aware of it, like your choices, way of interacting with people, or attitudes. I thought they were mature in being able to decide, “No, I’ll take this,” while at the same time being aware of outside influences.

Q: Pumyong was pestering for a whiteboard, saying that he had something important to write.

SN: He doesn’t get to fulfill all of his desires, but he’s keen on the look out, and always keeps his fire stoked. I think he is really going for it, given that the things he wants to accomplish are so well thought out. He’s heading in that direction as he lives his life. I sensed that he’s a strong individual, different from myself, and thought I ought to learn from him. You usually end up thinking about your assigned roles in life, or someone else’s perspective, right? What would be left inside me if I shed the fixed roles I’ve been given, like director or assistant director? Not much. He started our relationship with us as equal pals, Li and Sugimoto. I think it’s a certain kind of strength, not like irritating familiarity or casualness. So it was a big stimulus for me. I changed a lot I think.

(Compiled by Hikino Nagisa)

Interviewers: Hikino Nagisa, Hashiura Taichi
Photography: Inotani Yoshika / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2005-09-16 / in Tokyo